Following Public health England’s recent 2018 update of the evidence on e-cigarettes, see our previous post. Some of you will most certainly have seen some of the stories in the media surrounding this topic. Unsurprisingly, there are many of misconceptions about e-cigarettes and vaping. This blog seeks to address the most common misconceptions and aims to provide the evidence-based facts.
We now generally agree upon the evidence around e-cigarettes, despite the confusing, media reporting around the safety of e-cigarettes. While not without some risk, when compared to traditional smoking, e-cigarettes are far less harmful.
This view is supported by a number of key bodies, including Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and recently, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
MYTH 1 - E-cigarettes causes ‘popcorn lung’
The most common myth is that e-cigarettes cause ‘popcorn lung’. This story came around after a series of reports showed some flavourings used in e-liquids to provide a buttery flavour contain the chemical diacetyl, a chemical which at very high levels of exposure has been associated with the serious lung condition bronchiolitis obliterans (BO).
The condition gained its popular name because it was initially observed among workers in a popcorn factory.
This myth likely got its start from a series of reports in the early days of vaping when many e-liquid manufacturers outside of the United Kingdom were using diacetyl. However, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK.
MYTH 2 - E-cigarettes are Unregulated
You will be glad to know the UK actually has one of the strictest regulation for e-cigarettes in the world. Under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TPD), e-cigarette products are now subject to minimum standards of quality and safety, as well as the packaging and labelling requirements to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices.
All manufacturers must report all products to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for testing, with detailed information including a list of all ingredients.
MYTH 3 - Nicotine is harmful
New study has found four out of 10 smokers mistakenly think nicotine causes most of the tobacco smoking-related cancer, while evidence clearly shows nicotine actually carries minimal risk of harm to health. Although nicotine is the reason people become addicted to smoking, it is actually the thousands of chemicals contained in cigarette smoke that causes all of the harm.
E-cigarettes do not contain tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. They do contain some chemicals also found in tobacco smoke, but at much lower levels.
MYTH 4 – Second-hand vapour is harmful to bystanders
The evidence is clear that exposure to second hand traditional smoke is harmful, which is why the UK has laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. These laws do not cover vaping and organisations are free to make their own policies on the use of e-cigarettes on their premises.
E-cigarette liquid is typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerine, and flavourings. Unlike cigarettes, there is no side-stream vapour emitted by an e-cigarette into the atmosphere, just the exhaled aerosol.
Public Health England’s latest evidence review found that to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions can be sensitive to a range of environmental irritants, which could include e-cigarette vapour, and PHE advises organisations to take this into account and to make adjustments where appropriate.
MYTH 5 - E-cigarettes will lead young people into smoking
Public Health England (2017), study found no evidence so far to support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people. A number of UK surveys show that young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and confined almost entirely to those who already smoke.
MYTH 6 - E-cigarettes keep people smoking
There is currently no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are encouraging people to continue smoking – latest figures in UK suggests the opposite. The proportion of e-cigarette users who are ex-smokers has been increasing over recent years.
Of the 2.9 million adult e-cigarette users in the UK, more than half have completely stopped smoking. A further 770,000 have given up both smoking and vaping. At the same time, quit success rates have been improving and we’re seeing an accelerated drop in smoking rates, currently at a record low of 15.5% in England. Second lowest rate in Europe, to Sweden’s 14%.
Public Health England’s review indicates that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more.
In summary, e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes are clearly not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s important that England’s seven million smokers are aware of the differences and have accurate information to make informed decisions on their health.
E-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free but carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and are helping thousands of smokers to quit and stay smoke-free.
Hope you enjoyed this informative post. Feel free to leave a comment.